Kerala’s very own sweet. Quintessential Kerala ingredients; rice, coconut, and jaggery; are used to make this unassuming sweet.
Popping an ari unda into your mouth after a meal can be an utterly satisfying experience and the best part is that you can do so without feeling sinful or guilty. It is a very healthy sweet since it is devoid of oil, ghee, or sugar. It is a very good gifting option also as it has good shelf life and can be enjoyed by all age groups.
Parboiled rice – 1 cup
Whole wheat grain – 1/2 cup (optional)
Whole green mung beans – 1/2 cup (optional)
Jaggery – 2 cups (Same amount as the grains used)
Grated coconut – ½ cup
Dry ginger – ½ tsp/half inch
Elaichi/cardamom – 2-3 pods
In a thick iron wok, dry roast the grains (rice, wheat, and mung beans) separately until they change color and start giving out a wonderful aroma. In case of rice and wheat, they will start to pop. Green mung turns brown. Rice and wheat takes roughly 10-15 minutes of roasting time each in medium fire. Remove from fire and allow the rice to cool.
Grate coconut and powder the jaggery. In a mixer, grind the rice into a powder, not too fine but not very coarse either. If you are using whole dry ginger, powder it along with the grains. Add the elaichi pods along with the rice while grinding. Keep two tablespoonfuls of powdered rice aside.
After you finish powdering the rice, add jaggery, grated coconut and some powdered rice into the mixer jar and blend well. Remove from the mixer jar and mix the powdered rice, jaggery, and grated coconut well. The moisture from jaggery and grated coconut moistens the rice. If you are using dry ginger powder, add it now. Using dry ginger adds a nice flavor and aids digestion.
Make balls out of this mixer and use the powdered rice that you kept aside to coat the moist balls.
This stays good (in normal temperature) only for 4-5 days because of the presence of fresh coconut. However, you can refrigerate this for up to 15-20 days. Another version that is made traditionally in my house involves mixing the powdered rice with jaggery syrup. This version uses copra instead of grated coconut and hence has a good shelf life of 2-3 weeks. The only downside to this version is that due to the use of jaggery syrup, depending on the consistency of the syrup the laddus harden and breaking them with your teeth can be quite a task!
Some jaggery varieties are not moist enough to hold together and firm up the laddus. In such cases, you will need to use jaggery syrup instead of powdered jaggery for the laddus. Make jaggery syrup by adding a cup of water to the jaggery and heating it. When the jaggery is diluted, strain it to remove impurities. Then, boil the strained jaggery syrup to a string consistency. Turn off the heat. Add small quantities of this syrup to the mixture of powdered grains and coconut/roasted copra. Add enough to moisten the powder and then use your palm to shape into laddus. You can roll the shaped laddu on some dry powder to firm it up a little bit. Make sure that the jaggery syrup that you add to the powder is warm enough. For this, you may have to reheat the syrup depending on the time you take to shape the laddus. But you cant keep the syrup on flame all the while that you are making the laddu because that will make it too thick and sticky.